Monday, December 31, 2012

My New Year's Resolution

Do you know many folks who make New Year's resolutions? I asked a few people yesterday at church about resolutions and the common response was laughter - "What? I don't make resolutions.  They just get broken anyway Hahahahahahahaha!"

I get that.  Nobody's perfect.  Resolutions get forgotten or broken so many folks just don't bother.

But the idea of a resolution brings with it the idea that in some part of my life, I can strive for improvement.  With the Lord's help, I can do better.  And that's a good thing, right?

So here 2013 I resolve not to own my worries but to give them over to the Lord.

I come from a long line of worriers.  My Mom worried about everything.  About 99 percent of the stuff she worried about never happened.  But she figured that it could happen so that gave her ample reason for worry. 

My inspiration for this resolution is Philippians, chapter four.  The apostle Paul wrote: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

I'm really tired of letting worry impact my life in so many unhealthy ways. Why should I wrestle with my worries until I get wrapped up and pinned down by them? I worship a great big God.  His strength is unmatched and His wisdom is without equal.  Nothing is impossible for God.

He bids me to bring my anxious thoughts and worrisome situations and leave them at His throne.  What better offer could a worrier receive? And on top of it, God promises to exchange my worries for His peace.  This peace comes from knowing that I am a baptized child of God, a member of the Lord's kingdom.  I am a forgiven child of God and there is no sin or transgression that the Lord hasn't forgiven and forgotten. 

This will be a struggle.  You don't spend 60 years of your life worrying and then just stop.  There will be lots of prayer involved.  There will probably be plenty of times when I'll have to stop and repent and confess my ownership of my worries.  But then I'll turn them back over to the Lord and let His peace wash over me. 

That's my New Year's Resolution.  What's yours? Send me an email:  I'll pray for you and you can pray for me.

Have a blessed new year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Fear Not!

And the angel said unto them, "Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people."  This joy is not just for Peter and Paul but for all people.  Not just to apostles, prophets, and martyrs does God say, but to you, "Come, see the baby Jesus."  "Fear not," said the angel.  I fear death, the judgment of God, the world hunger and the like.  The angel announces a Savior who will free us from fear.  Not a word is said about our merits and works, but only of the gift we are to receive.

Martin Luther, from "Martin Luther's Christmas Book," Fortress Press

Taking a break from blogging (and everything) for a few days.  Thanks for reading! Have a blessed Christmas.  Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Normal Nagel on Christmas

The angel's message is simply what happened - a birth - and the identification of the one born - "a Savior who is Christ the Lord."  Impossible? No, it has happened.  God did not wait for clearance from us whether it is possible or not.  It happened.  A Savior born, Christ the Lord.

Selected sermons of Normal Nagel - Christmas 1975

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Finally, a day off!

This December has been as busy as any I can remember.  Since the beginning of the month I've worked every day (that's how it goes sometime).  Today I get to relax a bit.  I'll help my dear, sweet wife with a little house cleaning, watch my favorite football team, Liverpool, on Fox Soccer Channel, head down to church to see my oldest grandson practice for the Family Christmas Eve service coming up in just a couple of days (Wow!), and spend the rest of the evening with him, making a candy train and watching a Charlie Brown Christmas (again!). 

Tomorrow, we conclude our series, The Prayers of Advent," during worship at 8 and 10:45 am; classes for all ages meet at 9:15 am.  Have a blessed weekend and, if you're in our neighborhood, come see us at Life in Christ!

Friday, December 21, 2012

How about a little Latin?

Gloria in excelsis Deo

Et in terra pax
     hominbus bonae voluntaris

Laudamus te

Benedictimus te

Adoramus te

Glorificamus te

Which is...

Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth, good will to men.

We praise Thee; we bless Thee; we worship Thee; we glorify Thee!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Luther on the Christian Life

Because you have taken hold of Christ by faith, through whom you are righteous, you should now go and love your neighbor.  Call upon God, give thanks to Him, preach Him, praise Him, confess Him.  Do good to your neighbor, and serve him; do your duty.  These are truly good works, which flow from this faith and joy conceived in the heart because we have the forgiveness of sins freely through Christ.

Luther's Works - 26:133

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

You Are the Sun

A favorite singer/songwriter of mine is Sara Groves.  A few years ago she released a song entitled, "You Are the Sun."

You are the sun shining down on everyone
Light of the world giving light to everything I see
Beauty so brilliant I can hardly take it in
And everywhere You are is warmth and light

And I am the moon with no light of my own
Still You have made me to shine
And as I glow in this cold dark night
I know I can't be a light
Unless I turn my face to You.

The song still resonates with me.  Because I wrestle every day with the desire to gratify my own sinful nature, I am just like the moon.  I have no source of light.  I am cold.  I am dark.

Such would be my sad state today except for this: As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.  (Luke 9:51).  Some have said that Jesus "set His face" toward Jerusalem.  He kept His appointment at the cross where He suffered and died.  He endured the darkness of Calvary.  He suffered for our cold hearted ways.  In His resurrection from the dead He triumphed over the prince of darkness.  And now, in all His brilliant glory, Jesus calls us to be salt and light.

You are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).  Salt is a preservative.  It provides seasoning.  Jesus seasons us with His rich mercy and grace so that we might go out into the world and extend the same mercy and grace to others.

You are the light of the world ((Matthew 5:14).  And as we turn our faces to our Lord and Savior, the Light of the World shines His light upon us.  He has made us to shine.  As we do so, all those around us may be able to see the difference Christ makes in us.  They feel the warmth of His love in our words.  They see the brilliance of His compassion in our actions.  All this happens when we turn our faces to Jesus who is warmth and light.

Be salt! Be light! May the light of Jesus' love reflect off of you and into the lives of everyone you meet today.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Best Gift-Giver of All

A few years ago a friend shared with me the story about the young boy who wanted a bicycle for Christmas.  All the other kids in the neighborhood had bikes.  He wanted a bike.  The boy's mother, trying to be helpful, encouraged her son to pray to God about this request.  So that's what he did.  "Dear Jesus, could You see to it that I get a bicycle? All my friends have one.  Amen."

Each night the boy prayed the same prayer.  But the praying didn't seem to help.  How could he be sure God would give him the gift that he wanted the most? Then the youngster got an idea.

When his mother wasn't looking, the boy snuck into the living room, found the little manger scene which was set up under the Christmas tree, and put the statue of Mary in his pocket.  He rushed to his room, closed the door and knelt by the bed.  He prayed: "Jesus, if you want to see Your mother again, I'd better get that bike!"

This kid brings new meaning to the phrase, "Desperate times call for desperate measures!"

The good news for us is that God is without peer when it comes to gift-giving.  His gift of the Christ-child is a prime example of how God gives to you and me.

*In love - "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son...(John 3:16)

*Freely - "It is by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not of yourselves, it it the gift of God..." (Ephesians 2:8)

*Perfectly - "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" (2 Corinthians 9:5)

It seems like every Christmas there is always one gift that has to be returned - wrong size, wrong shape or wrong color.  Praise God for His "one size fits all" gift of "eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!"  (Romans 6:23)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Saturday Night Live points to Christ!

Never in the history of the program has the opening segment featured a children's choir.  In radiant joy and with beautiful voices, they sang the words that never fail to move believers to worship the Father for the gift of the Son.  "Silent Night, Holy Night...Holy Infant so tender and mild...Love's true light."

Perhaps unwittingly, Saturday Night Live got it right.  In the midst of such a trajedy as we witnessed this weekend at Sandy Hook Elementary School, our only hope, the world's only hope, is Jesus.

Jesus is the only one who can comfort us when evil runs amuck.  Jesus is the only one who can put us upright when we've been knocked down.

Oh, that the world would listen to Jesus! The Word of God disarms Satan every time.  Oh, that the world might turn to Him in repentance and faith.  Jesus earned our forgiveness at the cross but He is always ready to deal with sorrowful hearts with His gifts of grace and mercy.  Even now the Lord stands with outstretched arms, ready to receive and comfort the lost and the hurting.

President Obama is right - we need a change in our country.  But this change will not come from within.  We are not good enough or strong enough.  Sin lurks in the heart of us all.  Change is possible only when we open our hearts and let Jesus come in.  His "redeeming grace" changes us.  Pray that people will take a look at the "Holy Infant so tender and mild."  Jesus is our hope.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Viva Vox Jesu!

"Viva Vox Jesu" - the living voice of God - is what we hear when His Word is read and preached.  The Word of Jesus is both a written and an oral Word.  This Word, though written in words inspired and canonically received, is also spoken and heard within a community called the body of Christ.  This voice is a living voice, for by it Jesus Christ is present for us bodily...we acknowledge that God's Word is God's food for hungry pilgrims who have journeyed in Christ through a baptism of His death and resurrection toward the final destination of full communion with Him in heaven.

Arthur Just, "Heaven on Earth," page 199

Friday, December 14, 2012

Words to live by

While preparing for Sunday's sermon, I came across this comment from former Major League baseball player, Mickey Rivers.  He may have the perfect explanation on why worry is fruitless.  Here you go:

Ain't no sense worrying about things you got control over, because if you got control over them, ain't no sense worrying.  And there ain't no sense worrying about things you go no control over either, because if you got no control over them, ain't no sense worrying.

Got that?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Smile of New Life

This week I'm studying the apostle Paul's words to the Philippians in chapter four, verses four though seven.  This is, of course, where Paul brings his emphasis on "joy" to a crescendo.  The word, "rejoice," in verse four is an imperative - Paul is emphasizing that joy should be a continual, habitual part of the life of a believer.

In one of my journals I noted some comments from author Eugene Peterson on the topic of joy.  I failed to note where I found these quotes.  I think Peterson offers some great insight.  I particularly like the point that joy is not something we create or find.  Joy comes from the Lord.

Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipleship, it is a is what comes to us when we are walking in the way of faith and obedience.

All suffering, all pain, all emptiness, all disappointment is seed: sow it in God and He will, finally, bring a crop of joy from it.

The joy comes because God knows how to wipe away tears, and, in His resurrection work, create the smile of new life.  Joy is what God gives, not what we work up.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The word for the day is "blessed"

Did you know that the Sermon on the Mount can be read in 15 minutes? Matthew writes: "His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them." Jesus begins by teaching them what it means to be blessed.

In the Greek, the word is "Makarios." Some Bible translations use the word "happy."  Others "fortunate."  The use of those words causes some problems for me.

"Happy" has as its primary meaning an emotional state.  "Fortunate" too often is understood to mean "to have good luck."  And, to be honest, happy is the last thing I feel when I am poor in spirit because I realize just how far short I fall in living according to God's will...or when I mourn the loss of a church family member and I see how this loss has created such sorrow for the family.

I am not happy when I am mistreated by others, especially those who seek to hurt my family or my reputation...or when I become frustrated with my lack of spiritual growth and fall to the same pet sins again and again.

No, the proper word is "blessed."  The Beatitudes do not tell us how to become blessed; they rather describe the blessedness that already belongs to all believers in Christ.  The beginning of Jesus' sermon mentions eight ways in which all Christians are blessed.  All Christians are poor in spirit.  They all mourn and are meek.  They all hunger and thirst for righteousness and are merciful and pure in heart.  They are peacemakers and are persecuted for righteousness.

So even when I am unhappy, God comforts me by reminding me of the blessings I already have in Christ.  I am comforted and filled and have been and continue to be shown mercy and I am a Son of God. 

Blessed is George.  Blessed are you!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Just Plain Exhausted

If you are like me then your December calendar has more meetings, events, gatherings, parties and other commitments than you know what to do with.  Even though each year I say to myself, "Keep it simply," it seems that the opposite happens.  Donald Deffner's prayer is a good one to pray anytime you are worn out.

I'm tired, Lord

just plain exhausted

But now let me not
just dwell on my weariness
but on Your strength
Direct me to
Your holy Word
O you who were
wearied for our sakes
even to the cross
Let me find my refuge
in You
Send Your holy angels
to minister to me
and bear me up
Refresh, renew and strengthen me
Give me the peace
the world cannot give
Restore to me
the joy of Your salvation
You have promised
You will come
Abide with me then
till I find my final rest
in You

From "Prayers for People Under Pressure," page 88

Monday, December 10, 2012

St. Francis says, "Live for Today!"

I did not note in my journal where I originally found this quote.  It seems that St. Francis has picked up on Jesus' words in Matthew, chapter six: "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself."  (6:34a)

Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and everyday.  Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.  Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations and say continually: The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart has trusted in Him and I am helped...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tomorrow's going to be emotional...

Worshipping every Sunday with the flock at Life in Christ is a joy.  But tomorrow will be memorable.  I'll have the privilege of giving the Lord's baptism to my fourth grand child and first grand daughter, Emily Faith.  I always seem to get teary eyed at baptisms but when it's your own grandchild? I hope I can keep it together. 

Then in the afternoon my good friend of 40 plus years, Jerry, will be commissioned as a Deacon to serve our church.  Jerry has worked so hard the past three years to complete his course work.  We are all so proud of his perseverance.  Come and join us and see God's grace touch many lives.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE (Learn Is For Everyone) Hour at 9:15 with classes for all ages.  Hope to see you Sunday at Life in Christ!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Encouragement from Dr. Luther

We know that to be saved is nothing other than to be delivered from sin, death and the devil (Col. 1:13-14).  It means to enter into Christ's Kingdom (john 3:5), and to live with Him forever.

From the Large Catechism, part 4, paragraph 25

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The devil's agenda

Another nugget from John Jeske's great book, "Connecting Sinai to Calvary"

(Satan's goal) is to rob us of our thankfulness for God's good gifts.  If it was within Satan's power, we wouldn't have a single piece of bread, not a single penny of income, not even a single hour of life.  But since that's not in his power, he'll try to rob us of God's blessings by making us ungrateful and unappreciative of them.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Have a Charlie Brown Christmas!

I stopped watching Christmas television specials long ago because they usually had nothing to do with Christmas.  I stopped listening to radio stations playing Christmas music for a month or more because the songs they played usually had nothing to do with Christmas.  But last night I was overjoyed to see one more time, "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

I think this program made its debut in 1965.  The story was the familiar one - poor Charlie Brown can't seem to get the meaning of Christmas.  He's certain that the commercialism of the season is not the reason to celebrate.  He's puzzled that his friends don't share his same concern.  And when he picks the one real Christmas tree in the whole lot and brings it to rehearsal, his friends let him know, in no uncertain terms, that he's failed again.

With Charlie on the edge of utter despair, it's Linus to the rescue.  Walking softly to the center of the stage, he recites the Christmas story from St. Luke, chapter two..."For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."  Then he walks back to Charlie and says simply: "That's the meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown."

That's the moment when the tears trickled down my face (Yeah, I know - I'm a baby!).  That's the news that never fails to warm my heart and cause every problem I'm dealing with to melt away.  For me is born a Savior! For me! God loves me dearly! Loves even me enough to send His only begotten Son to save me from sin and death and give me the greatest gift I'll ever receive - eternal life in heaven!

On Facebook I've been reading how some folks love "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," or "Frosty the Snowman," or "Alvin and the Chipmunks."  Sorry! I'm having a Charlie Brown Christmas this year.  The meaning of Christmas is found in a manger in Bethlehem.  Born there is forgiveness for sins, power for daily living and the hope of eternal life.  Christmas is about Christ Jesus - nothing more and nothing less.  Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Be faithful...

Sometimes my sinful nature wants to take over and lead me to believe that if anything good is to happen in my ministry it will be up to me - my efforts, my wisdom, my power will be what is needed to carry out my calling to the church.

Whenever I fall prey to this thinking, I always become stressed out, harried and depressed.  Not a  healthy way to live for sure.  A very helpful person gave me some excellent advice, which I later had written on a plaque.  It sets on the corner of my desk where I can see it every day.  It reads:

Be faithful and watch what God does.

This was his way of telling me that I didn't have to be a "super pastor," somehow thinking that if any kind of ministry happens in the church, it's all up to me.  That's what Satan would have me believe; that's what many church growth experts espouse; that's what my sinful nature wants to hear.

But God has not called me to greatness or busyness; He has called me to be faithful.  When I simply carry out the calling He has placed upon me - to preach and teach the Gospel and administer the sacraments and be available to His people when they need me, His Holy Spirit can and will work mightily to change hearts and bring people into the kingdom. 

"It's not up to me"...what a wonderful thought that is.

The same is true in your calling - be a faithful spouse, father or mother, son or daughter, employee or employer, friend, servant - and watch what God does in your life and in the lives of everyone else.  God is faithful (1 Thessalonians 5:24).  Trust Him today and watch what he does!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Let's go to sermon!

Rev. Scott Murray writes the "Memorial Moment," a daily email missive that folks can subscribe to.  He is a gifted writer and theologian (or maybe it should be the other way around).  A few months ago he wrote something that caught my eye.

The people of Martin Luther's time, instead of saying, "Let's go to Mass (service)," said, "Let's go to sermon."  They thought the proclamation of the Word as the center and focus of the whole service's activity.  How right this is.  The whole was known by its most important part.

I fear today that many churches and pastors have lost sight of this important distinction.  What I mean is that is seems that in many churches the sermon and God's Word have been left to serve the music and the praise band.  Some folks choose a church based on how the praise band sounds and whether or not the music is the newest and latest they hear on the radio.  To be sure, music is an important part of worship.  Music and hymns give us the words that we often want to express as we offer thanksgiving to God for the gift of His Son, Christ Jesus. 

But the music is to serve the Word.  I can go to church and do just fine without singing one song or hymn.  But I cannot do without the Word of God.  I cannot do without God's Holy Supper.  These are the gifts that give and nourish faith.  They are like water that nourishes a plant.  I can live without music.  I cannot live without the Means of Grace.

Don't get me wrong - I love music.  Music so often gives expression to what I feel deep in my soul.  It helps me respond to God's grace and mercy, His forgiveness and salvation.  But music can never be the focal point of any worship service.  To borrow from the prophet, Joshua, "As for me and my house, we shall go to sermon!"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy Church New Year!

Tomorrow is the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of a brand new church year.  Should we have a party to celebrate? Or is there a different attitude to take as we enter a new church year? The apostle Paul provides a wonderful example to follow in chapter three of his first letter to the Thessalonians.  Be here tomorrow to learn more.  Worship is at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) Hour at 9:15 am - classes for all ages.  Hope you can join us!

Friday, November 30, 2012

5 Mondays - 5 Radio Programs

That's right - in the month of December, my little radio program, Wake Up With The Word, will be heard five times, Monday morning at 8:25 am on 1280 AM radio.  If you miss the program or live outside of the Phoenix area, go to our home page and see the column on the left hand side to find the current program.

12/3 - "We Saw Your Smoke Signal" - a reminder that God can turn disaster into something that works for our good.

12/10 - "Waiting for that Glorious Moment" - a visit to a labor and delivery room provided a reminder of how much things have changed in 2000 years.

12/17 - "Something Bigger Than Phil" - the comedy routine, "The 2000 Year Old Man," helps to illustrate that our God is a big God!

12/24 - "Are We There Yet?" - Do you suppose Mary asked this question of Joseph as they made their way to Bethlehem?

12/31 - "The Story of Teddy Stallard" - a heartwarming story of how one teacher's heart was changed by a hard-to-love little boy.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Are you willing to take "the road less traveled?"

Last summer I began my time of renewal by taking a personal retreat and spending a few intense days working through Kurt Senske's great book, "The Calling - Live a Life of Significance."  One of the most important points Senske makes in his book (maybe the most important and most fundamental) is that God must be at the center of our lives if we wish to live a life of real significance.  He also emphasizes how difficult this is.  The devil, the world we live in and our own sinful flesh wants to pull us in a different direction than the one the Holy Spirit is leading us to take. 

God wants us to love our neighbor.  We are often (daily!) pulled in a different direction - to love and serve and satisfy ourselves.  We must decrease in order to give God first place in our lives.  The temptation is to want to take that place for our own enjoyment.

So the journey is not easy but the blessings are greater than you can imagine.  Senske writes: By taking the road less traveled, we, in effect, turn the post-modern world, with its elusive, and ultimately unfulfilling, values, on its head.  No longer do we ask, "What's in it for me? How can I get ahead?" Instead, we ask, "How can I be the hands and feet of Christ in this world?"  In this way we reflect who we truly are, "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God..."  (1 Peter 2:9)

To whom can you be the hands and feet of Christ in the world today?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Luther tells the Law to "Shut Up!"

From Pieper's Dogmatics, vol. 2, pg. 375

Therefore, when the Law comes and accuses you of not having kept it, bid it go to Christ.  Say, "There is the Man who has kept it; to Him I cling.  He fulfilled it for me and gave His fulfillment to me."  Thus, the Law is silenced.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sermon Illustrations

A fellow I used to work with years ago is always sending me stories and jokes that he thinks would make good sermon illustrations.  But I haven't found any that I thought would be suitable.  Here's an example:

An elderly man was dying in his bed.  In death's agony, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favorite chocolate chip cookies wafting up the stairs.

He gathered his remaining strength and lifted himself up out of bed.  He slowly made his way out of the bedroom and down the stairs, gripping the railing with both hands.  With labored breath he leaned against the door frame, gazing into the kitchen.

Were it not for death's agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven: there, spread out upon newspapers on the kitchen table were literally hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies.  Was it heaven or was it one final act of heroic love from his devoted wife, seeing to it that he left his world a happy man? Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself toward the table, landing on his knees in a rumpled posture.

He reached out to the edge of the table and took one of the cookies, bursting with dozens of chocolate chips.  A glass of cold milk would have made this would have made this moment perfect, but the old man couldn't wait.  His parched lips parted; the wondrous taste of the cookie was already in his mouth, seemingly bringing him back to life.  The aged and withered hand was bringing the cooking to his mouth when suddenly it was smacked with a spatula by his wife.

"Stay out of those," she said, "they're for the funeral!"

Monday, November 26, 2012

Everyone in this church is going to die!

Another story from Mitch Albom, "Have a Little Faith."

The pastor of the little country church began his sermon with a stirring reminder: "Everyone in this church is going to die!" The minister looked around and he noticed a man in the front row with a huge smile on his face.  The minister asked, "Why are you so amused?"  The man answered, "I'm not from this parish.  I'm just visiting my sister for the weekend."

Page 231

Saturday, November 24, 2012


As we come to the last Sunday of the church year, it seems that we come full circle.  The theme of Advent is "watch!" That's the Word Jesus gives to us in the Gospel lesson from Mark, chapter 13.  Come and receive God's gifts with us at worship tomorrow.  We'll have a baptism and our outstanding Choir will sing.  Services are at 8 and 10:45 am.  Christian LIFE Hour offers classes for all ages at 9:15 am.  And even though some people say donuts are bad for you, ours are amazingly good! Join us this Sunday at LICL!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Max Lucado on Black Friday

God is on the cross.  The creator of the universe is being executed.

Spit and blood are caked to His cheeks and His lips are cracked and swollen.

Thorns rip His scalp.  His lungs scream with pain.  His legs knot with cramps...

And there is no one to save Him, for He is sacrificing Himself. 

It is no normal six is no normal Friday.

From His book, "Six Hours One Friday"

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A timely Luther quote

Not sure where I found this quote from Dr. Luther.  I failed to cite the source in my journal when I wrote it down.  Love it anyway!

Thankfulness is the virtue of real Christians; it is the worship of God at its best.

A blessed Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Join the Resistance...No Shopping Thursday!

This just makes no sense to me - Black Friday shopping on Thursday?

Is it really necessary that stores like Target and WalMart have to tempt shoppers to leave their families and friends just to get an earlier start on bargain shopping? What am going to be able to buy on Thursday evening that I can't buy on Friday?

And how about all the folks who will have to cut their holiday short so that they can ring those cash registers?

We Americans sometimes wonder why so many people around the world dislike us so much.  We, who have more than about 90% of the people living today, just can't seem to get enough (or so it appears).

Remember when Thanksgiving was a day to switch gears.  It was a day we looked forward to.  It was an opportunity to spend deep, quality time with family and friends.  We caught up with each other.  We sat back and enjoyed a good meal.  Cousins got to see and play with each other.  Some fell asleep on the couch while watching Detroit play somebody in football.  And it seemed that saying "goodbye" on Thanksgiving could take forever.

Everything tasted better on Thanksgiving.  Turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy and noodles (my Mom's noodles were the best!).  And the pies - wow! Nothing beats pie on Thanksgiving. 

So let's join the resistance - no shopping this Thursday.  Let's use the day for what it was intended - to give thanks to God for His loving kindness and tender mercies.  Give thanks for your blessings.  Express gratitude for help given during times of sickness and pain.  Celebrate the relationships you have with others.  Offer praises for the forgiveness and salvation that God has given you through Christ Jesus.

Let's take Thanksgiving back from Target and WalMart and the other greedy merchants who worship at the altar of the $$$sign. 

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endures forever!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

LIsten with your eyes!

It's not enough to just hear someone speak, as this story from Mitch Albom's book, "Have a Little Faith," illustrates.

A little girl came home from school with a drawing she'd made in class.  She danced into the kitchen, where her mother was preparing dinner.  "Mom, guess what?" she squealed, waving the drawing.  Her mother never looked up.  "What?" the mother said, tending to the pots on the stove.  The little girl asked again but Mom continued to fuss with the pots.  The little girl then said, "Mom, you're not listening.  I want you to listen with your eyes."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Welcome to our world, Emily Faith!

Dear Emily,
Once I was able to snuggle you up in my arms yesterday, I just could not put you down.  You are so precious and beautiful.  You were a long time in coming, but - Praise the Lord - you finally came! You have given to your mother and father and your entire family an indescribable joy.

Welcome to our world.

But this world today is not a happy one.

Everything Jesus said is coming to pass.  Wars and rumours of wars.  Pain and suffering all over the world.  We are taught that all these things will happen before Jesus comes again. Amen, come Lord Jesus!

In the meantime, I'm glad to know that you have such great parents.  They will love you and care for you and do everything within their power to give you the very best life possible.

They are people of faith and so I'm glad that you will hear the love of Jesus on their lips and see the love of Jesus in what they say and do.  No, they are not perfect.  They will mess up just like all parents do.  But I have every confidence that you'll receive the best they have to offer.

I'm praising God today for the gift of life.  I praise God for the life He has given to you.  And soon, you will receive God's gift of new life in Christ Jesus when you come to our baptismal font at church.  You will receive the washing of water with the Word.  God will put His sign on you - the sign of the cross - which marks you as one of His very own children.  I'll probably weep - I always seem to do so whenever a baptism takes place at our church.  The power of God is very overwhelming.

This is the first but not the last word you'll hear from me.  I look forward to holding you more...baptizing you...having you sit in my lap during the children's message...looking at all the papers you have to show me from Sunday school...and on and on it will go.

May God keep on watching you with His eyes of love and compassion.

Your Papa

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Pep Talk

Some of my favorite sports movies include inspiring pep talks.  There's Norman Dale exhorting the Hickory Huskers on their run to the Indiana State High School Basketball Championship.  Remember Herb Brooks firery speech before the young US Hockey team took on the mighty Russians at the 1980 Winter Olympics? A good pep talk renews our purpose and inspires us to keep on striving toward our goal, whatever it might be.

Do you need a pep talk? Could you use a little lifting up? The writer to the Hebrews has just what you need.  Come and receive a pep talk at our services this Sunday.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE Hour classes for all ages at 9:15 am.  Join us this Sunday at Life in Christ!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

John Kleinig on baptism

In His baptism, Jesus takes on our sin and guilt, our death and damnation; in our baptism, Jesus gives us His place with Gdo the Father and His status as the only Son of the Father.  He gives us all that He is and has to us.  We get a new self and life from Him.

From Grace Upon Grace, page 169

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Somebody did it for me!

Bodie Thoene, a best-selling writer of Christian fiction, once worked as a script writer for "The Duke," John Wayne.  In "Today's Christian Woman" magazine she explained how the opportunity came about.

By the time I was 19, I was commuting to Los Angeles and doing feature articles on different stunt men and other film personalities for magazines.  Four years later, an article I co-wrote with John Wayne's stuntman won the attention of the Duke himself.  One day he called and invited my husband, Brock, and me to come to his house.  He talked to us as if we were friends, showing keen interest in us as individuals.  From that day on, I began writing for his film company.  Brock helped me with the historical research.

We were awestruck.  Here was this man who had been in film for 50 years and he takes a young couple with small children under his wing! Once I asked him, "Why are you doing this? You are so good to us!"

John Wayne replied, "Because somebody did it for me."

Interesting, isn't it, that the famous actor didn't take credit for extending a kindness to another person? His motivation, instead, came from a kindness that had been shown to him at another time and occasion.

So it is with the love that we give to others.  We cannot take credit for demonstrating love to family, friends and church family.  We love because we were first loved by God (1 John 4:19).  Indeed, we wouldn't even know what love looks like except that we have seen the love of God in His Son, Christ Jesus.  Touched by the sacrificial love of the Savior, we want to reach out and love our family members and good friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and people with whom we've had little or no contact.

Who is your world needs a touch of God's love today?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A prayer for patience

Anyone else out there finding their patience tested today? Here's a good prayer from the Lutheran Service Book, page 312:

O God, by the patient endurance of Your only-begotten Son You beat down the pride of the old enemy.  Help us to treasure rightly in our hearts what our Lord has borne for our sakes that, after His example, we may bear with patience those things that are adverse to us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Monday, November 12, 2012

We did not run out of grace yesterday

I have always loved the story of God's grace to the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17.  Her situation is so desperate that she tells Elijah that she can't fix him even a small loaf of bread; she has just enough for herself and her son.  It is their "last supper," so to speak.  But then, the Word of the Lord comes to her and God promises: The jar of flour shall not be spent and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.

The widow trusted God's Word and promise; she did as she was asked.  And until the drought ended and the rain again fell on the land, the widow had all she needed for herself and her son and Elijah, too.

As I started studying the text early last week, one of the questions that I mused on was, "What's it like to have such a promise made and miracle happen in the life of a person, a desperate person like the widow?" But then I realized that I know what it's like.

Every Sunday in worship the church gathers and God blesses us with His grace.  He promises to come and abundantly bless us and He does.  Never have we run out of the Word of God.  Never have we run out of God's absolution and forgiveness.  Never have we run out of the Lord's body and blood in the sacrament.  God blesses us generously and then we come back the following Sunday and He gives even more!

Sometimes I feel like the widow.  I, too, am desperate.  I come with an impoverished soul.  I need to hear that God forgives all the stuff that I feel so badly about - my disobedience, my selfishness, my cold heart.  I need to hear God's promises and be reminded that if I were the only person in the world, He'd still keep those promises - for me.  I need to hear that in the Holy Meal I meet my Lord and Savior is the most amazing way this side of heaven.  When I leave worship I am filled, forgiven and refreshed.

And then, there's next week.  There will be even more - grace upon grace.  You, me and the widow - richly blessed and cared for by a gracious and generous God. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther!

Luther Statue, Wittenburg, Germany, summer 2011.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The oil and flour will never run out?

Yes, that's the promise the Lord made to the widow of Zarephath.  Would she take the Lord at His Word? Would she step out in faith and rely on the Lord? And wouldn't you like a promise like that one from God Himself? Come learn how the Lord God provided for the widow and how He provides for you! Join us for worship at 8 am and 10:45 am on Sunday.  Bible classes for all ages begin at 9:15 am. 

Also, for those of you in the Valley of the Sun, our Men's Ministry has an exciting morning planned.  They continue their study of the book of Revelation at 10 am; at 11 am, Jeremy Price, Men's Volleyball Coach at Grand Canyon University will be their guest speaker and then a BBQ follows at 11:30 am.  It should be a very inspiring morning of study and fellowship and food (don't forget the food!).  Come see us this weekend at Life in Christ!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Something bigger than Phil!

I'm using the following in an upcoming radio devotion but thought I'd share it with you now...good for a laugh!

Remember the 2000 Year Old Man comedy routine that Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks did so many years ago? During one of the routines, Reiner asked the old man, "Did you always believe in the Lord?"

Brooks replied, "No.  We had a guy in our village named Phil and for a time we worshipped him." 
Reiner asked, "You worshipped a guy named Phil? Why?"  Brooks responded, "Because he was big and mean and he could break you in two with his bare hands!"

Reiner went on, "Did you have prayers?" Brooks answered, "Yes, would you like to hear one? O Phil, please don't be mean or hurt us or break us in two with your bare hands.  Amen."

Reiner went on to ask, "So when did you start worshipping the Lord?" Brooks, as the 2000 Year Old Man, explained it like this: "Well, one day a big thunderstorm came up, and a lightening bolt hit Phil.  We gathered around and saw that he was dead.  Then we said to one another, "There's something bigger than Phil!"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We saw your smoke signal!

Did you hear the story about the only survivor of a shipwreck? He was washed up on a small, uninhabited island.  He prayed feverishly for God to rescue Him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed to be coming.

Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the weather and to store his possessions.  But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke drifting up to the sky.  The worst had happened; everything was lost.  The survivor was stunned with grief and anger.  "God, how could you do such a thing to me?"

Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island.  It had come to rescue him.  "How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man.  "We saw your smoke signal," they replied.

It's easy to get discouraged when things are going bad.  But we shouldn't lose heart because even in the midst of pain and suffering, God is at work in our lives.  Remember, the next time your little hut is burning to the ground, it just may serve as a smoke signal that summons the grace of God.

And God is gracious! We say, "It's impossible!" God says, "All things are possible."  (Luke 18:27) We say, "Nobody loves me!" God says, "I love you."  (John 3:16) We say, "I can't forgive myself."  God says, "I forgive you."  (1 John 1:8) We say, "I'm always worried and frustrated."  God says, "Cast all your cares on me."  (1 Peter 5:7)

Know anyone whose hut is about ready to catch on fire? Encourage them with the Word of God!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The sun will come up tomorrow!

Finally, we've come to the end of another election cycle (Maybe?).  There's lots of trepidation about where our country will go depending on who wins the presidential election.  And I'd agree that there are numerous reasons for all Americans to be concerned.

But as I was doing sermon study this morning on 1 Kings 17:7-16, I was comforted.  God tested both Elijah and the widow of Zarephath.  Both were given the opportunity to step out in faith.  In both cases, God provided both physical and spiritual blessings.  The gracious and generous God provided; He was in control.

Neither candidate is our best chance or our last hope for having the kind of life we desire for ourselves, our kids and grandkids.  God is our hope.  He is more powerful than political parties or the news media.  God's will cannot be thwarted.  His promises are certain and sure.  No matter what challenges we face - whether individual or as a nation - our hope is in the Lord.  (Hebrews 6:19; 1 Peter 1:3; Psalm 39:7)

So be sure to vote today.  And no matter the outcome, the sun will come up tomorrow.  And tomorrow will be one more day for you and me to put our hope and trust in God's one and only Son - the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is our hope.  He is our salvation.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Unanswerable Question

"Why are some saved and not others?" This was one of the questions that I dealt with last Saturday at the "Basics" class I taught for folks interested in becoming part of the Life in Christ church family.  This is a question for which we have no good answer but Frank Starr, in one of his "Light for the Way," devotional booklets, offered an important insight:

Whatever the reason, God's Word (irresistible in some quarters) can be resisted by people - not because we are more powerful than God, but because He will not force Himself on us.  He desires to be loved.  And love must be given.  It cannot be forced.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

For All The Saints...

This Sunday we remember all those from our church family who found their rest in Jesus in the past 12 months.  And we'll learn what Jesus means when He says that those who mourn will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).  If you're in our area, please join us.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE Hour (classes for everyone!) at 9:15 am.  Hope to see you this Sunday at LICL!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Talking about Jesus...making new friends

I'm very excited about tomorrow.  I'll be conducting our "Basics of the Christian Faith" class for 8 people.  These are folks who want to join our church and who want to know more about what our church believes and confesses.  In another part of the campus, Pastor Vern Trahms will be leading an "Explorers Class."  This group is made up of Lutherans who are also interested in joining our church family and want to know more about living the new life in Christ.  For me it will be a long but very fruitful day.  Praise the Lord for continuing to grow our church!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

At Home with Jesus

On this All Saints Day, my heart was warmed and encouraged by these words from Gerald Oosterveen's book, "Too Early Frost."

Parents are not supposed to bury their children.  The old are not supposed to stand beside the graves of the young.  It is unnatural.  One is not prepared for it.  The death of a child tears apart a family like the uprooting of one plant out of a cluster that have been allowed to grow together in one pot.  It cannot be done.  All those roots become so intertwined over the years that nothing short of violence can separate them.  And it leaves all the plants stunted...

Oh yes, we mourn...But we have hope - bright hope for tomorrow, when all who trust in Jesus Christ as Savior will move beyond pain and grief forever because we shall be forever with the Lord.  And it is not just some pipe dream, some opium to stupefy and mislead hurting people.  It is real, because Christ is real, because in our past there is a blood-stained cross on which the Prince of Glory died.  Because of that bloody, pain-filled past we have hope when all things are made new and death shall be no more, nor grief, nor crying.

In a little cemetery in a small out-of-the-way town there is a tiny marker.  It bears only three lines:
"At Home with Jesus"

Of the three lines, the last line is the only one that really matters.

"At Home with Jesus."  When I think of my Mother and Father, when I think of good friends like Jim Peterson, when I think of the people who I've had the opportunity to serve as pastor and shepherd, the only line that really matters and the only line that can comfort sorrowing hearts is that they are at home with Jesus.

Let that line, that thought, be your comfort today as you think about and give thanks for those you loved who were loved by Jesus even more and now rest in His gentle and nail-scarred hands.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My hero - Martin Luther - and me

Today is Reformation Day, the 495th Anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95th Theses to the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  One of the highlights of last year's European trip that my wife and I took was our visit to Wittenberg.  I'm standing next to the Luther statue; the building in the background is City Hall.  We were in Wittenberg for only a couple of days.  I wish we could have stayed longer.  It felt like home.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Marriage's Death Certificate

I came across these words while reading some Max Lucado yesterday and he is right on the money. 

When one or both people in a marriage stop trusting God to save it, they sign its death certificate.  They reject the very One who can help them.

As we Lutherans would say, "This is most certainly true."  When married couples ask to meet in my office to counsel and pray about their marriage, within the first few minutes I can usually tell whether there is hope or not.  It comes down to whether or not the couple are willing to let the Lord do His healing work and put His Word to work in their lives.  Sure, there are always problems, many of them serious, that cause a marriage to begin to come apart at the seams, so to speak.  Relationships generally do not fray over night but over time.  So, it only stands to reason, that mending the relationship will also take time.  But when a husband and wife are willing to trust God, listen to Him speak to them through His Word, put that Word to practice in their lives, practice repentance and reconciliation, and learn to love one another as the Lord has first loved them, the Lord can do a marvelous work.  Nothing is impossible for God.  Nothing.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Have you 'appreciated' your pastor?

October is Pastor Appreciation Month.  If you haven't "appreciated" your pastor yet, please do so.  Quickly.  Today.  Like right now.

Here's why:

Most pastors work really hard.  They often forgo doing things with family and friends so they can serve the flock.  Most folks aren't aware of this.

Because pastors work really hard, they tend to keep crazy schedules.  Most folks only see the pastor at work on Sunday.  The majority of people are simply not aware of what the pastor does during the week.  During the week is when the preparation for Sunday takes place.  During the week is when much of the ministry happens.  People get sick.  People are in crisis.  People die.  This is not an 8 to 5 job with Saturday and Sunday off.  Most pastors I know work 55-60 hours a week.  Throw in a funeral or wedding or Advent or Lenten services on top of everything else and the hours soar.  This is not a recipe for good mental, emotional or physical health.

Because pastors keep such crazy schedules, they often wear out.  Or burn out.  Most pastors I know really give themselves to the Lord and to their congregations.  The demands made on them are great and since most pastors don't want to let anyone down, they push and push and push some more.  The human body wasn't designed to keep up that pace forever.  What happens when a person has a tired mind and a tired body? Illness.  Depression.  Guilt.  Some pastors lose their effectiveness.  Others leave the ministry.  The congregation weeps.  The devil celebrates.

What can fill up a pastor's emotional gas tank? Knowing that he has the congregation's appreciation and support.  A few years ago I was going through a very difficult time.  As I sat at my desk going through some email, I opened one that said simply, "I've got your back."  I can't describe very well what that message meant to me.  For a moment my heavy heart felt as light as a feather.  The heavy burden I carried on my shoulders and into my office had been lifted. 

Even more filling is the Word of God.  The Lord's reassurance provides comfort and consolation for weary or wounded pastors:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame will not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God...  (Isaiah 43:1b-3a)

Ministry is hard.  What a blessing for a pastor to know that "God has your back!"  And what a blessing it is when the pastor knows that in spite of his weaknesses, the congregation still "has his back."

'Appreciate' your pastor today! 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Birthplace of the Reformation

Wittenberg, Germany...Martin Luther is called in 1511 to serve a a professor of the Bible at the University of Wittenberg.  It is through his study of the Scriptures that he learns that righteousness before God is not something that is earned but is given as God's gift through faith in the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This good news is imperiled by the selling of indulgences which promised forgiveness for sin.  On October 31, 1517, Luther posted the 95 Theses on the doors of the Castle Church (see above).  Sadly, while we were in Wittenberg last summer, the doors of the church were under repair so I was unable to get a good picture of the spot when Luther stood with Theses in one hand and hammer in the other.  I guess that means that I'll just have to make a return trip!

Friday, October 26, 2012

It's Monday - I'm Pregnant!

I read this story in one of Jan Karon's "Mitford" books about the pastor who explained that delivering the Sunday sermon is kind of like giving birth to a baby.  Then, on Monday, you find out you're pregnant again! Well, I'll be delivering another sermon this Sunday as we celebrate the reformation of the church.  I might even mention Martin Luther once or twice (what a surprise!).  Come and join us if you're in our area.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE hour at 9:15 am.  Join us at Life in Christ this Sunday!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The best place in the world to be buried?

On Thursday nights I'm teaching a LifeLight Bible study on the topics of miracles.  I chose the study, in part, because the prof who most inspired me at Seminary, Glenn Nielsen, helped write the study.  As I was preparing for the first lecture I came across this great line:

I like the man who said he wanted to be buried in Jerusalem because as he put it, "Jerusalem has the highest resurrection rate of any city in the world!"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Stuart Townend gets it!

Townend, IMHO, is the finest writer of modern Christian and church music today.  His song, "In Christ Alone," already is a classic.  It is sung in all kinds of churches using all kinds of service formats.  The reason is simple: "In Christ Alone" has a singular focus - the Lord Jesus Christ.  The object of the song is clear: Christ crucified, risen, victorious.

In an interview, Townend said something which I think the church and especially those who plan worship must keep in mind: When all our songs are about how we feel and what we need, we're missing the point.  There is a wonderful, omnipotent God who deserves our highest praise, and how we feel about it is in many ways irrelevant.

I want to encourage the expression of joy, passion and adoration, but I want these things to be the by-product of focusing on God - I don't want them to become the subject matter.  I'm trying to write songs that refer to us as little as possible, and to Him as much as possible.

We Lutherans understand worship as something as God does for us and not about what we do for God.  What joy that should bring to the heart of a believer! Almighty God, maker of heaven and earth, comes to meet us in our church to serve us.  He comes and brings a Word of forgiveness and hope...He washes us with a washing that cleanses us so that we can stand before our Father...He invites us to His table to provide us a meal that draws us as close as we can be to Jesus this side of heaven.

Townend is right - the subject and object of our worship can only be the Lord.  God alone can forgive sins.  God alone can give us the miracle of the new birth and new life.  God alone paves the way to eternity through the suffering, death and resurrection of our Savior.  If the personal pronoun "I" dominates all the songs you sing in church, be concerned.  As Townend says, if all the songs we sing are about how we feel and what we're going to do, we are missing the point.  Worship the Lord!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A new month of radio programs ready to go!

Tomorrow I head over to the radio station to record the November batch of programs.  They include:

11/5 - "No Mistakes on Judgment Day"  For the first month of the pro football season all anyone could talk about was the blown calls by the replacement refs.  Isn't it good to know that there will be no mistakes on Judgment Day?

11/12 - "Preach the Gospel...and use words!"  With apologies to St. Francis, we must use words when sharing the Gospel with others. 

11/19 - "Eyewitnesses - Usually the Best Witnesses"  A trip to the Musical Instruments Museum in Scottsdale, AZ, helped me to appreciate what we have in the Bible.

11/26 - "Thanks for Calling 'My Father's House'"  What a disaster it would be for us if God used voice mail in dealing with our prayers.

The program, "Wake Up With the Word," is heard each Monday morning at 8:25 am on 1280 am in the Phoenix area.  You can also check it out by looking in the left hand column on our home page.  Being an old radio man, recording these programs each month is a real joy!

Monday, October 22, 2012

A higher standard of living

Max Lucado tells the story of the man who had been a closet slob for most of his life.  He just couldn't comprehend the logic of neatness.  Why make up the bed if you're just going to sleep in it again? Why put the lid on the toothpaste if you're going to take if off again in the morning? The man admitted to being compulsive about being messy.

Then he got married.  His wife was patient.  She said she didn't mind his habits...if he didn't mind sleeping on the couch.  Since he did mind, he began to change.  He joked that he had enrolled in a 12-step program for slobs.  A physical therapist helped him rediscover the muscles used for hanging up shirts and placing toilet paper on the holder.  His nose was reintroduced to the smell of Pine-Sol.  By the time his in-laws arrived for a visit, he was a new man.

But then came the moment of truth.  His wife was sent out of town for a week.  At first he reverted to the old man.  He figured he could be a slob for six days and clean on the seventh.  But something strange happened.  He could no longer relax with dirty dishes in the sink or towels flung around the bathroom or clothes on the floor.

What had happened? Simple! He had been exposed to a higher standard of living.  That's what Jesus does too.

When we are exposed to the Gospel, Jesus changes us.  Something needs to be done with our "old man," our sinful nature.  So Jesus' Baptism cleans us up; His Word teaches us how to replace old habits with new purposes for living; His Supper gives us strength to live in love and forgiveness.  No longer are we satisfied to sleep in the unmade bed of bitterness and anger.  No longer are we willing to put our hands in the dirty sink of self-righteousness and pride.

Pick up your Bible this week and read of Jesus' sacrificial love and unlimited mercy for you.  Know that the Spirit is at work through the Gospel, changing attitudes and behaviors.  Who knows? You might find yourself picking up your clothes from the bathroom floor!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Great Bach and little old me

Last summer I had the opportunity to be away from Life in Christ to take a three month time of renewal, sponsored by the Lilly Foundation.  In July 2011 my wife and I traveled through Austria, Germany and England.  We were able to attend the Bach Festival in Leipzig and here I am standing next to the Bach statue outside the Thomaskirche.  Bach served there for over 20 years.  He is buried inside the church in the choir area.  We attended four concerts in three nights with the highlight being the St. Matthew Passion which was performed at the Nicholaskirche.  It was, without a doubt, the greatest and most wonderful music I have ever heard.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Rationalization Game

It could become as popular as "Jeopardy" or "Wheel of Fortune."  It's called "The Rationalization Game!" Come learn how easy it is to play.  Learn also why playing the game could be detrimental to your life in Christ.  This Sunday at LICL worship takes place at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE Hour with Bible classes for all ages at 9:15 am.  Hope to see you this Sunday at Life in Christ!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rest in Jesus, Muriel

We said goodbye this morning to one of our members, Muriel, who was called to rest in Jesus last Sunday morning.  We sang "Just As I Am" and "Lift High the Cross."  One of our pastoral assistants, Pastor Haak comforted the family with the healing balm of the Gospel of Jesus.  We were reminded that the Lord keeps his promises including that which we confess in the Creed: ...the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.

Although her family's eyes were filled with tears, their hearts were filled with hope.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Cor. 15:57)  Thanks be to the Lord for His blessings and benefits for you and me!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Good theology from Johnny Cash

Once, when his daughter, Tara, asked if he ever had an imaginary friend, singer Johnny Cash responded like this: "Yes," he told her.  "Sometimes I am two people.  Johnny is the nice one.  Cash causes all the trouble.  They fight."  (from "The Man Named Cash" by Steve Turner, page 17)

Probably without knowing it, Cash was expressing good Lutheran theology, namely that we are Simul justus et peccator - Simultaneously justified and a sinner.

To be "justified" is to be declared "not guilty."  In God's courtroom, God declares you and me and all who believe "not guilty" for the sake of Jesus who died on the cross to pay the penalty of our sin and to give us His righteousness which makes us clean and whole before God the Father. 

Still, we know that in this life we sin.  We think evil thoughts...say evil evil stuff.  Like David, we too can say: For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.  (Psalm 51:3)

It seems like such a contradiction, right? If I'm a sinner, then how can I be a saint?

That's where the power of the Gospel comes in.

It is God's good news of forgiveness and salvation through faith in Christ that God justifies the sinner.  Christ makes us righteous.  Through repentance and faith, we are made new in Christ.  The Holy Spirit, working through the means of grace, gives us a new mind and heart, one that does the will of God because of Jesus. 

Still, we struggle.  We see that old, sinful nature rear its ugly head constantly.  As Johnny Cash said, "They fight."  That's why our baptism is so important.  At the baptismal font, we were buried with Christ in His death.  Our old Adam, our sinful nature must die.  Then, with Christ, we were raised to new life.  Now we are free to live - free to love God and to love our neighbor.  We don't have to work at or earn God's favor or blessing.  We have already been declared "not guilty."  We can now live the new life in Christ that we've received through the grace of God.

I understand this Simul justus et peccator stuff.  George is the nice one.  Spicer causes all the trouble.  Luther got it.  Johnny Cash got it too.

Let this be another day that you live in the new life you received at your baptism.  For the sake of Jesus, you are justified before God - "not guilty" of sin and freed from the sentence of eternal death.  Eternal life is yours - through Christ!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Another gem from John Jeske

In the last year or so I've become acquainted with the writings of Pastor and Seminary Professor, John Jeske (he is the father of Pastor Mark Jeske of the "Time of Grace" television program).  Here is another gem from John Jeske's book, "Connecting Sinai to Calvary."

Because in our place our Substitute lived a life of perfect obedience to the holy law of God, God considers us to be people who have given Him the perfect obedience He demands.  Because in our place our Substitute died innocently under God's curse, God considers us to have been punished for our sin.  (page 67)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Making this field goal will be easy...Nope!

Such are the trials and travails of being a sports fan.  One minute your team sends your spirits soaring.  Then that same spirit crashes faster than the Hindenburg. 

The Arizona Cardinals did not play very well yesterday.  All the usual problems surfaced (porous offensive line, inconsistent quarterback play).  Still, the team fought back and when place kicker, Jay Feely, nailed a 61 yard field goal to tie the game, it was amazing.  Then the Cardinals got the ball back, worked down the field until Feely reentered the game with 3 seconds left.  This time a 32 yard field goal would win the game.  This would be easy, right? If Feely could make a 3 pointer from over sixty yards, a kick from half the distance would be a gimme.  I boasted, "Feely could probably make the game winner blind folded."

The 61 yard field goal was a thing of beauty, easily clearing the cross bar.  The shorter kick was as ugly as the huge pimple that decided to park itself between my eyes the day freshmen class picture were taken all those years ago.  Yes, I'm talking UGLY! Even my mother said of that picture, "That doesn't look so good."  Neither did Feely's kick.  It hooked toward the left upright, hit dead center and ricocheted back onto the field.  A few minutes, in overtime, Buffalo got the ball and their kicker didn't miss.  Cardinals lose 19-16. 

The victory seemed like such a sure thing.  And yet, the game reminded me that there are no sure things in life.  Promises get broken sometime.  Commitments are forgotten.  Field goal kickers miss game winners.

And yet, now that I think about it, there is one sure thing.  That is Jesus.

Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  That's comforting news.  Jesus is consistent.  He does not change.  He is completely dependable.  Promises always kept.  Commitments unfailingly carried out.

Not only is Jesus unchangeable, He is also almighty (Matt. 28:18); all-knowing (John 21:17); always present (Matt. 28:20).  He kept His commitment to be your Savior (Luke 22:42).  He promises to be with and help you in your time of need (Matt. 11:28-30). 

It's hard to put complete faith in place kickers.  But you can put your trust and hope in Jesus.  He has come through for you in the past (John 3:16-17).  He will come through for you all the way to the end of your life (Psalm 23:4) and see you through heavenly gates (Psalm 23:7).

God's best to you this week!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Jesus and the rich young man

He demonstrated the right posture but asked the wrong question.  Maybe you've ask the same question of the Lord.  Learn how Jesus lovingly tries to teach the rich young man what he really needs in his life.  Worship at Life in Christ takes place at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE Hour and Bible classes for all ages at 9:15 am.  Join us this week at Life in Christ!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Eyewitnesses...usually the best witnesses

A couple of months ago my friend, Dan, and I went over to the Musical Instruments Museum to see Lawrence Juber in concert.  If you are a fan of Paul McCartney, the former Beatle, then you know Juber's name.  He was the guitarist in the final Wings lineup before McCartney disbanded the group.  Juber often says that the time he spent with McCartney were some of the most fruitful of his career.  Juber likened it to a college education, attending "McCartney University."

Juber is a fantastic guitar player.  Even though his days of playing with McCartney are long since past, he is in great demand as a session guitarist and as a composer.  He has recorded many solo Cd's which spotlight his amazing skill on both acoustic and electric guitar.

I wanted to go to the concert because I had read a lot about Juber's talent.  I wasn't disappointed.  But I was interested in going for another reason.  I was hoping that I might receive some kind of insight about McCartney that I didn't already have.  After all, Juber stood shoulder to shoulder with the former Beatle on stage.  They spent countless hours in the recording studio working on songs.  Juber was an eyewitness to McCartney's genius.  If he told a story about recording a particular song or shared an insight to McCartney's personality, that would really mean something.  After all, Juber was an eyewitness.  He saw, spoke to and worked with Paul McCartney.  Juber would know what he was talking about.

It's that same kind of reasoning that enables us to put our confidence in the Bible.  The men whom the Holy Spirit directed to write about Jesus and the growth of the church were eyewitness to all that had happened.  Or in the case of Luke, much of his Gospel and also Acts, comes from those who were there and witnessed the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, the birth of the church and the growth of the early church.

Think about the eyewitness testimony regarding the resurrection.  The apostle John says he saw the resurrected Christ (John 21:24); the 11 apostles (Acts 1:3); Peter (Acts 10:39-41); hundreds of people (including the apostle Paul).

The resurrection is absolutely essential to the Christian faith.  Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 15:17: If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we, too, are dead.

Praise God that we never need to doubt the truth of the resurrection.  We have the word of those who saw and spoke with and ate with the resurrected Christ.  Our sins have been paid for.  We have been redeemed from sin, death and hell.  Satan cannot frighten us with His doubts and lies.  Jesus lives! The victory's won!

Be sure to go to church on Sunday for another weekly celebration of Easter.  Give thanks to Jesus that we are not still in our sins.  God has forgiven them and forgotten them (Hebrews 8:12).  Jesus is alive! We have the proof of many this case, the best witnesses.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

You Gotta Love Martin Luther!

While doing some reading for an earlier blog entry, I decided to see what Luther had written in the Large Catechism on the 8th Commandment.  I couldn't help but LOL! In his graphic and humorous way, Luther describes what gossip makes out of us.  Here's what he wrote:

People are called slanderers who are not content with knowing a thing, but go on to assume jurisdiction.  When they know about a slight offense committed by another person, they carry it into every corner.  They are delighted and tickled that they can stir up another's displeasure, just as swine delight to roll themselves in the dirt and root in it with the snout.

Keep that image in mind the next time you're tempted to speak poorly or derisively about another person!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Don't send that letter!

There used to be an old business axiom that whenever you write a letter during the heat of an angry moment, take the letter and put it in a desk drawer, wait 24 hours, then reread the letter.  More often than not, after having a chance to cool off, you would be more inclined to drop the letter in the garbage can or run it through the paper shredder than put it in the mail.

Too bad the late John Lennon didn't know that axiom.  I've read that a new book of Lennon's letter will soon be published.  Although Lennon could be quite humorous and very eloquent with the written word, it seems that many of the vicious and hurtful letter that he wrote to some within the Beatles family will be included in the collection.

Anyone familiar with Beatles lore is well aware of how nasty and mean-spirited their break-up was.  It seems that those still alive have been able to put behind them the drama of their acrimonious break-up and have been able to focus on their friendships, their love for music and the joy that their music gave to so many.

To release a such a book now seems to akin to picking off a scab from a wound.  What good can come from publishing these letters now?  Do we all want to be reminded again of how vicious and crude and insulting John Lennon could be when he was angry? That is not an aspect of his personality that we would ever celebrate.  I think such a book could tarnish Lennon's legacy.

Things written or said in the heat of anger are usually never helpful.  Luther, in his explanation to the 8th Commandment, wrote that we should defend our neighbor and speak well of him or her and put on everything done the best construction (or explain it in the kindest way).  In the Large Catechism, Luther began his teaching on the 8th Commandment by writing, "Over and above our own body, spouse, and temporal possessions, we still have another treasure - honor and good reputation."   To write or speak slanderous things or to speak outright lies against our neighbor can harm or ruin a person's reputation and good name.  God's Will for you and me is that we not harm anyone, friend or enemy.  What Jesus teaches in Matthew 7:12 is good for us all: So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Too bad John Lennon didn't make use of his desk drawer.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Have you exercised your faith today?

John Kleinig, in his wonderful book, "Grace Upon Grace," talks about the fact that faith is an active, living thing.  He writes (on page 44), ...we exercise our faith continually, in our work and in our rest, in the Church and in the world, just as we exercise our eyes by seeing and our ears by hearing...

We exercise our faith by practicing our piety, whether it is going to church or by saying grace before meals, by meditating on God's Word or by praying, by examining ourselves in the light of God's Law or by confessing our sins, by fasting or by presenting our offerings to God...

We are not called to live as practical atheists, people who, theoretically, believe in God, and yet act as if God has nothing to do with their daily lives....

People schedule regular times of bodily exercise each day.  We want to keep our bodies fit.  Do you do the same for exercising faith? Kleinig would have us all put to use the gifts of God in our lives every day so that faith, which is the Lord's gift to us, would continue to keep on trusting in the Lord for forgiveness, for life and for everything.

Hope you find time today for a good workout!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Can you help a stressed out man?

I had all kinds of trouble getting through our 10:45 am service yesterday.  Forgot several things that were included in the order of worship.  Felt unsettled throughout the whole service.  It really bugged me for most of Sunday.

This morning it finally hit me - George, you were a stressed out man!

Last week I dealt with:

Several unhappy secretary's health situation (we've worked over six years together so it was hard to see her hurting)...lack of respect for the pastoral office...several difficult and emotional counseling sessions...three full days in which I worked 40 hours in those three days...trying to pull arrangements together for our soon to be new deacon's theological interview...finding a guest speaker for a upcoming men's event...witnessing an auto accident on the freeway (PTL, the driver was not hurt at all) dear, sweet wife's ongoing health issues (we've been married 40 years and I don't know what I'd do without her).

So it was no wonder that I was a little distracted yesterday.

What do I do this week to keep from getting stressed out?

For one - pray.  I realized this morning that as the stress seemed to build, I stopped praying.  Started relying more on myself.  Unfortunately, when stressed out, I'm pretty unreliable.

I use the devotional book, "The Divine Hours," because it helps me to pray the Psalms where I find such comfort and help.  So this week, it's back to praying the hours - evening, morning and noon, as the Psalmist wrote.

For another - exercise.  I was walking every day during lunch and I really enjoyed doing so.  I was walking because it was helping my back.  But I also think that it was a stress reliever.  I felt so rejuvenated that I had more energy for afternoon stuff.  So this week, I'm taking my t-shirt and shorts to work and digging out the tennis shoes from under my desk and I'm going to walk - don't care how hot it is!

For a third - diet.  When I get stressed, I eat.  Too much.  Way too much.  Then I gain weight.  Too much.  Way too much.  So this week I'm going to be counting points just like I did on Weight Watchers.  I just lost close to 20 pounds and I don't want to put it all back on - and more.

For a fourth - sleep.  When I'm stressed, I have difficulty sleeping.  I'm going to try and slow down the end of the day by reading, doing Compline, and entrusting all my cares to the Lord.  He is greater and smarter than I.  There is nothing too hard for the Lord to deal with.

We all deal with stressful situations and people, don't we? I pray that you deal with stress better than I did last week.  Cast all your cares on the Lord because He cares about you.  That's what I'm going to do.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Let's Go!

LCMS President, the Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison has a two word translation for St. Mark 16:15 - "Let's Go!" This Sunday I'll share a couple of stories of people who "got going" and ask how Life in Christ Lutheran can do the same.  Join us, won't you? Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE Hour at 9:15 am.  Come meet the warm and friendly folks of LICL this Sunday.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Blood of Love

I might have shared this before but I can't help myself.  It's Martin Luther and it's good, comforting news.  From Treasury of Daily Prayer:

Therefore, if consciousness of a great sin weighs you down, comfort yourself with the blood of is solely in the blood of Christ that we have confidence on the Day of Judgment.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

God knows you? Yes!

Marsha Kaitz, a psychology professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, did a test to see how well mothers know their babies.  According to the Associated Press, the 46 mothers chosen for the test had all given birth in the previous five to 79 hours.  They had all breast fed their newborn.

Each mother was blindfolded and then asked to identify which of three sleeping babies was her own.  Nearly 70 percent of the mothers correctly chose their baby.  Most of the mothers said they knew their child by the texture or temperature of the infant's hand.  The woman apparently learned the identifying features during routine contact, said Kaitz, because they weren't allowed to study their babies to prepare for the experiment.

70 percent of the Moms could identify their child.  That's pretty impressive.  Even more impressive is Almighty God's ability to know His children.  It's 100%!

That's the word from the psalmist David.  Read Psalm 139 this week to learn more.  David writes it clearly - God knows you through and through.  From the time your alarm clock goes off in the morning until you switch off the bedroom light at night and hit the sack, God knows what you've done, where you've been and what you've said.  There is no place where you can hide from His Spirit.  There is no darkness that can conceal you.  From the moment of your conception until this very moment, God has you on His heavenly GPS screen.

And that's good! When we're honored for our hard work on the job, God knows and rejoices.  When we pound the pavement seeking any kind of a job, God knows and is with you.  God's searching knowledge of us leads us to put down our guard and be transparently honest with Him.  His Law shows how we have offended the Lord and so His Spirit leads us to repentance and faith.  His Gospel reassures us of the Lord's forgiveness and salvation.  We have His promise - the Lord will lead us in the way everlasting.  May God bolster your faith as you pray Psalm 139 this week.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Who is stronger than death?

Name the devil's strength.  It's death, isn't it? As the wage of sin, death puts us into Satan's grip and guarantees each sinner a cell number in hell's prison.

Now, name someone stronger than death.  That has to be Jesus, doesn't it? The third day He rose victorious from the grave.  Death couldn't hold Him.  He was God's Son - as He professed to be.  Sin's payment was finished - as He had proclaimed from the cross.  Those who believed in Him would never die - as He had promised.

From As Luther Taught the Word of Truth, page 56.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Preach the Gospel and please, use words!

It is St. Francis who is to have said, "Go out today and preach the Gospel...and if you must, use words."  I don't know if he said such a thing but I have a hard time with such a thought.

The Gospel is all about Jesus Christ - His suffering, death and resurrection for the redemption of the world.  The Gospel is good news, the best news anyone can hear.  The Gospel is all about words - words regarding the salvation that is God's free gift to those who believe in Jesus - the way and the truth and the life.

The life that St. Francis is speaking of is one that is motivated by the Gospel.  The love of Jesus changes us and moves us.  We want to be salt and light to the world.  We want to love our neighbor as Jesus first loved them and us.  We want to let our light shine in a world full of darkness and sin so that more and more people will come to know and trust Jesus to be their Savior from sin and death.

In Acts, chapter 8, Phillip used the words of the 5th Gospel - Isaiah - to help the eunuch see and believe in the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."  Paul wrote to the Romans that the "Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of the world."  The Gospel is all about the Word - Jesus!

By all means, go out today and show the power of God's love at work in your life.  Let people see the difference that Jesus makes.  But also be ready to speak His Gospel of love and forgiveness to those around you.  Preach the Gospel...and use words to do it!

Friday, September 28, 2012

On the road toward humility

Jane Fryer is a favorite author of mine.  Over the years I have found her notes in the "Today's Light Bible" from Concordia Publishing House to be invaluable.  I found this Fryer quote in my journal yesterday and wanted to share it with you. 

True, godly humility comes to us as God's gift of grace.  When His Word leads us to see our helplessness, our sinfulness, our need for Jesus, we're on the road toward humility.  When we - by grace - focus on Christ, when we cling to Him as our only hope, we are exactly where God wants us to be.  When we trust in Christ's pardon alone as the remedy for our sin, then God can lift us up.  He gives us - us! - the very righteousness of God.

Two things strike me as I read this.  First, humility is not something that we work up in ourselves but it is happens as we are changed by the forgiveness and grace of Christ.  Second, isn't the Gospel of Christ such sweet news? Nothing compares!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What is your Kryptonite?

He was called "the man of steel."  But Superman wasn't so super in the presence of kryptonite.  What is your kryptonite? What is the millstone of sin that hangs around your neck? How do you get rid of it? Who has the power to remove it? Learn more this Sunday at Life in Christ.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE Hour (Learning Is For Everyone) at 9:15 am.  Join us if you can!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hooray for "The Middle"

Imagine my surprise as I read the back page of the "Life" section of USA Today and found the following: TV's most under appreciated great comedy returns with a one hour special as the Heck family makes its way through summer to fall.  Maybe this is the night the Hecks begin their break into the buzz and ratings elite - as they should...

My wife and I began watching "The Middle" from its first episode.  The setting is a small town in Indiana.  I can relate because I was born in small town Indiana too.  The show is based on the activities of the Heck family, a traditional family - something that is increasingly rare on television.  The parents are dealing with all the stresses of raising a family and the kids are feeling all the pressures of trying to fit in among peers while finding their own way in their world.

"The Middle" stars Patricia Heaton from "Everyone Loves Raymond" fame.  Her comedic timing is impeccable and the rest of the cast - especially the kids - are equally good.  It has seemed to me that the other, edgier comedies on the ABC schedule get all the promotion while "The Middle" is overlooked, even though it churns out one great and funny episode after another.

If you watch "The Middle," keep tuning in.  If you haven't yet checked out this program, do it tonight.  You're gonna like Frankie Heck and her family!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What can God's substitute do for you?

From John Jeske's wonderful book, "Connecting Sinai to Calvary:"

Because in our place our substitute lived a life of perfect obedience to the holy law of God, God considers us to be people who have given Him the perfect obedience He demands.  Because in our place our substitute died innocently under God's curse, God considers us to have been punished for our sins.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Whatcha reading?

Last year I read 31 books.  Since I was on renewal last summer, I had plenty of time to read and I took advantage of the time.  So far this year I've read about a dozen books.  This has been a very busy year of ministry and I find that often, by the time I get home from the church, I'm just too mentally exhausted to open a book and read.  I've got to do something about that but I'm not exactly sure what.

Here's what I'm working on right now:

Daily devotional - The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.  I have several devotional book that I enjoy but I seem to always come back to the Divine Hours.  There are readings for morning, afternoon and evening plus a reading for the close of the day.  Tickle makes great use of the Psalms and I find such comfort and peace by reading and praying the Psalms.

Daily Bible study - Light for the Way by Frank Starr.  This is an out of print daily Bible reading guide that was published by CPH back in the mid 80's.  There are two series - four books for the Old Testament and the same for the New Testament.  Pastor Starr does a fine job of establishing the theme for each reading and offering enlightenment as to what God is doing in the text.  He also provides a prayer starter.  This is probably my fourth time utilizing these books but they offer such a structured approach for daily Bible reading that I find them invaluable for me.

I'm reading two other books at the moment:

Grace by Max Lucado.  Actually, I'm just getting started with this book.  It was given to me as a birthday present.  I've admired Lucado's writing style for many years.  Whether you embrace his theology or not, he really knows how to connect with his readers and few writers turn a phrase better than Lucado.

West by West - My Charmed, Tormented Life by Jerry West and Jonathan Coleman.  When I was a kid pounding a basketball on cement school courts, I admired Jerry West of the Los Angeles Lakers and tried to emulate him.  West had a very successful career both as a player and general manager.  West describes what his life was like growing up in a family where his father was very abusive and his mother seemed incapable of offering nurturing love and affection.  West also describes the challenges of dealing with pampered, self-seeking professional athletes.  This is a candid and revealing book about the life of a basketball icon.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Who is the Greatest?

It was Muhammad Ali who once proclaimed himself as the "greatest."  But long before Ali coined the phrase, Jesus' disciples argued about which of them was the greatest.  How did Jesus settle the argument? Join us this week at Life in Christ to find out.  Worship at 8 and 10:45 am with Christian LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) at 9:15 am.  We'd love to greet you this week at LICL!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Defining temptation

I think Pastor Richard Lauersdorf does a pretty good job of it in his book, "As Luther Taught the Word of Truth."

Playing around with temptation is like trying to run down a mountainside.  There comes a time when your legs get away from you and you can no longer stop.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Remembering Jim Peterson

Watching the ASU-Missouri football game on TV last Saturday caused Sherri and I to remember a chance meeting with our good friend, Jim Peterson, at another ASU-Missouri game over 20 years ago.

Jim and I had become friends while working together in radio.  When he walked through the front door of the station, I immediately recognized him.  Jim had been a star pitcher for the ASU Sun Devils baseball team.  He left after his junior season and signed a contract with the Dodgers organization.  Arm problems forced Jim to retire so he returned to ASU to finish his degree in Mass Communications.  He came to our station looking for a job and our manager hired him.  Soon Jim and I were working together every day.

After a time I realized that Jim wasn't the person I thought he would be.  He was not an ex-jock full of himself.  Jim didn't brag about his accomplishments.  He was a humble person who was more interested in talking about Christ Jesus instead of himself.

I learned a lot about Jim during the time we worked together.  Jim knew the Scriptures.  He relied on them for direction for daily living.  He was passionate about telling others that faith in Jesus was the only way to heaven.  He was a good apologist for the faith and easily shared the story of Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection with anyone willing to listen.  Jim was a person I very much wanted to emulate.

Eventually, Jim got a job hosting a sports talk program on a Phoenix station and then moved into television.  We lost track of one another for awhile.  Then, out of the blue, Jim called me from New Jersey.  He had moved there with his wife and had become a member of an LCMS congregation.  We touched base every few months until he called one day with shocking news.  He had been diagnosed with throat cancer.

Jim went through several surgeries along with chemo and radiation therapy.  But the cancer was aggressive and I couldn't believe it when he wife called one morning to say that Jim had passed away.

I traveled to California for Jim's funeral service.  As I opened the church bulletin, I read a message that Jim had asked to be printed.  It read, "Don't talk about about Jesus Christ."  It was pure Jim Peterson.

Give thanks to the Lord today for the people who have made a difference in your life.  I'll do the same, beginning with my good friend and brother in the faith - Jim Peterson.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Why Study God's Word?

Bible study in its purest form deals with our lives on the most basic level, our relationship with God and the life of service that must inevitably follow.  It deals with God's love for us in its richest, most beautiful and most edifying form.

Robert J. Koester
"Gospel Motivation"
page 162

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lord, loosen his tongue!

I haven't been able to forget the Gospel lesson from two weeks ago - Mark 7:31-37.  You might remember it - the healing of a deaf and mute man.  Some of the man's friends brought the fellow to Jesus and asked for the Lord's help.  Jesus responded in a way we've haven't seen from Him in the Gospels.  Verse 33 reads: After He took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put His fingers into the man's ears.  Then He spit and touched the man's tongue.  Sometimes Jesus heals with a simple touch and sometimes just by speaking a word.  In this case, what better way to communicate to a deaf and mute man what the Lord intended to do for him?

Next, Jesus sighs deeply and then speaks one word, Ephphatha, which means, "Be opened!"  The good news in verse 35 reads: At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. 

This text is important to me and my family because my oldest grandson needed his tongue to be loosened.  At a time when toddlers begin to form words, my grandson was mute.  Fortunately, my daughter and her husband quickly sought help and finally found a learned doctor who diagnosed my grandson with apraxia.  In layman's terms, those with apraxia know in their brain that they want to communicate with words but, for some reason, the brain and tongue don't seem to work together.  The best my grandson could do was to grunt and groan a bit.

Night after night, my family and I would pray, "Lord, loosen his tongue! Help him to speak!"  And the Lord answered our prayer.

Not as dramatically as the story of the deaf and mute man but miraculous none the less.  With the help of a caring and patient speech therapist, my grandson slowly began to form words.  The difficult consonants became easier to speak.  Certain letter that he couldn't pronounce suddenly became easier.  The progress was slow but still remarkable.

Now, at age four, my grandson talks up a storm.  He has no trouble communicating with his parents, family, teachers, friends and total strangers! He often sits on my lap during children's messages and a newer member of our church was surprised to learn that he had apraxia.  "He talks so well and so clearly," she said.  "I think there have been a few times when he was going to take over for you and do the message himself."

After all my grandson has been through, I wouldn't mind at all.

Thank you, Jesus, for answering our prayer!